And, if you need some help deciding whether this is the book for you, there’s a great new review of the book up at Fantasy Literature, as part of their Horrible Monday series.
Damien Kelly accurately captures the slow horror of being trapped for a summer with a bully, especially an adept one, who manages to win the adults over to his side.
I will not die a saint
Any more than I will a sinner.
I will not die unfinished,
Unwilling or unready;
Nor ready, willing and able for all that.
I will not die in any known category
When I am finally other than I have ever been.
Excepting this, perhaps: a failure.
Electrical. Chemical. Mechanical.
A system failure.
No mystery or magic,
Transformation or transportation –
Save the acceleration due to gravity
And the rumble of the hearse.
I will not die. I will fail.
But I do have a fail safe.
For when my memory stops,
My imagination ceases,
And my wishing ends:
Yours will not.
And that way, assuredly,
I will not die.
Today, over at Stone Skin Press, I’m pairing my story, “The Whipping Boy” from The New Gothic, with an appropriate tipple to help you through all those scenes of chicken abuse and outside toilets. Also includes a John Candy anecdote, which is never a bad thing.
Elsewhere, though still a couple of months off, I can now reveal that my next story will be for the British Fantasy Society, in their upcoming LGBT themed issue of the BFS Journal (#12), and it’s not a short-short for once! This is the story that I’d pitched in an earlier version to Jared Shurin for a Jurassic London anthology. His issues became the corrections that made it work; that’s the value of a great editor, fact fans. The story is called, “The God Within.”
Told from the perspective of Tani Jinzan, a prominent astronomer and scholar of the Edo period in Japan, it takes inspiration from the events of November 8th, 1698, when he documented both a devastating fire in his home city of Tosa and a spectacular Leonid meteor shower that same night. A lifelong rationalist, this otherwise progressive and scientific astronomer took the coincidence of these two events as concrete evidence of a “Theory of Areas” that linked heaven and earth astrologically. Arguably, his adherence to this mystical thinking prevented Jinzan from becoming the great astronomical reformer that isolationist Japan needed. He was also, as the Japanese novelist Tomie Ohara discovered from letters he wrote at the time, a close friend of the fifth lord of Tosa, Yamauchi Toyofusa, but was mysteriously put on house arrest for the rest of his life when Toyofusa died in 1706.
This story attempts to inject a healthy dose of the fantastic into the events surrounding that day in 1698, and the relationships of a man who, though obscure in the West, is much celebrated and, indeed, prayed to in Japan because of his career as a scientist. It also draws upon the samurai practice of older men taking younger male lovers as wards, to bring up in the traditions of honour and the martial arts; a lifelong bond of faithfulness called, “the Beautiful Way.”
The BFS Journal is available in print and e-book formats to members of the British Fantasy Society, so if you’ve been thinking about joining, I definitely think now is the time.
It sits within the larger universe of Jurassic London’s Pandemonium city, a shared world that was introduced in A Town Called Pandemonium and was expanded in the chapbooks 1853, Ash and The Rite of Spring. Jurassic London is the brainchild of Hugo and BFS Award winning Pornokitsch wunderkindsJared Shurin and Anne Perry, selected to the h.club100 (for “innovators and pioneers in the creative industries”) in 2013.
Pornokitsch and The Kitschies are hugely influential, and I’ve wanted to place a story with Jared for ages. This certainly wasn’t my first attempt. He may have passed on those earlier attempts, but he gave me such amazing, generous feedback in doing so, feedback that allowed me to place one story he couldn’t use in another really great publication (more on this very soon, but I’m really excited about it) and, ultimately, find the right character-based focus for the world of Pandemonium. Originally written to the brief of another chapbook — The Rite of Spring — which was to examine themes of revolution in the year 1913, “Lockout” was inspired by events in Ireland during the autumn and winter of that year: the Dublin lockouts, the founding of the trade unions and James Larkin, the iconic figurehead of that movement. It was also inspired by my own love for Yeats’s poetry, especially September 1913 and The Stolen Child. When it transpired that this moment in history had inspired more writers than just me, the foundations for a separate, Dublin based anthology devoted to Larkin and his legacy were laid. And now you can read it for free (or for very little if you want to get it for Kindle from Amazon).
It is especially fortuitous that this chapbook of slightly-alternative histories, lightly spiced with fantasy, comes out the same year that Eurocon comes to Dublin. Jurassic London are planning to drop a few goodies on some of those attending Shamrokon between the 22nd and 24th of August to celebrate the anthology, so do watch out for those.
ABOUT THE BOOK
“The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!” – James Larkin
Few historical figures are as compelling as labour leader James Larkin, and the pivotal role he played in the history of Ireland. Big Jim’s Shadow brings this fascinating man and his surroundings to life with four short, slightly-alternate histories.
As with all the Pandemonium chapbooks, Big Jim’s Shadow is part of an ongoing ‘shared world’, and can be read as a standalone collection or as part of the ongoing series.
Includes a short introduction by the editor and a glorious cover from Jennie Gyllblad.
“Sackville Street” by Archie Black
“Lockout” by Damien Kelly
“And Dublin Wept” by Martin McGrath
“Coward” by Stuart Suffel
You can get it from these places, now.
The Writer, a programmable automaton built by Swiss engineer Pierre Jaquet-Droz in the 1770’s, is a machine straight out of our science-fictional imaginations, and yet is very real.
No, it’s not original, but let’s face it – the first thing you’d do in the face of time travel technology is try to tackle Hitler.
Now, it’s a dumb idea for all of the reasons laid out in Hitler’s Time Travel Exemption Act, drawing on the Rules of Time Travel.
But it’s a staple of sci-fi, even if it has become a bit of a parody and the bane of many editors’ slush piles. Not every attempt is canned on principle, though; not only has Doctor Who covered the idea, but so has the excellent scumbag-superhero show Misfits in recent years. And it still fascinates short story writers, as in this example from C.C. Finlay in Lightspeed Magazine, “The Cross-Time Accountants Fail To Kill Hitler Because Chuck Berry Does The Twist.”
So, bearing in mind the rules of paradox, the questionable moral intentions of doing so, and the insult this kind of fiction can add to the injuries of war, I still went ahead and wrote a novelette on this very topic, which originally appeared in eFiction last year.
I wouldn’t thank you for a space opera.
When you’re genre-minded and surrounded by genre loving folks as your nearest and dearest, eventually you get passed a copy of every kind of beast. I usually pass on the space operas. And the hard science fiction. I am morally opposed to the words, “Space Marine.” Not an exaggeration.
But in a world where all genres eat other genres, it makes no sense to come out with a line like, “I’m not really a fan of sci-fi,” much as it was my instinct to do so when I was first invited to join in with this 30 day celebration of sci-fi, hosted by Izzy at Rinn Reads. I love Doctor Who, which is science fiction, but tempered with every other kind of approach you could imagine. Mixed genres, crossover texts, fusion-punks of all flavours – this is what everyone is producing these days, and my own work has been no different.
Hadn’t I written sci-fi horror myself? Season of the Macabre has a story called Mine Alone in it, inspired in equal parts by The Matrix and Nick Sagan’s, Idlewild, where ideas about trying to perpetuate our humanity in a virtual existence are explored from my usual stance of doing terrible things to little children. And there have been others; there’s a flash fiction called Bandersnatch here on the site, and on the 13th of this month I’ll repost the sci-fi story that won the Octocon competition in 2011, Intervention Paradox. But in all these stories, I felt I was sidestepping the science somewhat to serve the chills. I wasn’t really a sci-fi writer.
But then, why not just avoid it entirely? Use magic. Use the fantastic. The supernatural?
And that’s when I realised the part of sci-fi that does appeal to me, and it’s an essence that is shared by all horror fiction: fantasizing the possible.
What horror needs, and sci-fi roots inself in, is the sense of possibility. What scares us, excites us, inspires us, chases us away, takes us away with it: these emotional responses rely on our ability to temper our “suspension of belief” with just a little sliver of, “I believe this could happen. To me.”
So that’s the kind of sci-fi I love; close, uncomfortable, possible.
Inspired by this, my first contribution to this event will be on November 4th, when Ara at My Book and My Coffee is allowing me to guest post on the first science fiction novel, and a classic of gothic horror: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. If the idea that Frankenstein is science fiction seems incongruous to you, now is the time to go read it.
No matter what kind of sci-fi fan you are – or if you’ve never countenanced the idea of looking at sci-fi before – you should find something to hook you in the incredibly wide schedule of articles, interviews and stories that has been put together for this event. The full schedule is here.
Hopefully, you’ll be led somewhere you’ve never been before.
So, yesterday was my birthday, and it was fantastic – I got this, which is quite possibly one of the most beautiful coffee table books of all time – but I can’t say I don’t wait impatiently for this day each year. My little girl is already hyped to eleven, and she’s not had a single ounce of sugar yet.
So, in honour of the day, I’ve posted a new story above:
It’s NSFW, and loaded with more triggers than a case of Deringers, so if you have any feels whatsoever, it may not be for you. Like so many of my stories, it’s about parenthood and the terrible things that happen to the children you love. You have been amply warned.
Now, go get your Trick or Treat on, kids! And don’t forget to wear your masks…
It’s almost Halloween, and I’m almost a year older. That seems like every kind of reason to unleash some fresh horror.
Firstly, I have a new story called “The Whipping Boy” coming out soon as part of Stone Skin Press’s latest collection, The New Gothic. Edited by Beth Lewis, who gave Season of the Macabre all its spit and polish, this collection, “revisits the core archetypes of the Gothic — the rambling, secret-filled building, the stranger seeking answers, the black-hearted tyrant — and reminds us not to embrace but to fear the darkness.”
There’s some really great people writing for this, but first amongst them must be Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey is a living legend of horror, whose short stories graced my father’s shelves and were early touchstones for me. His story “The Christmas Present“, in particular, was a direct inspiration for Season of the Macabre, and it’s a genuine hero moment to share a title with him. In addition to Mr. Campbell and me, Jesse Bullington and S.J. Chambers team their awesome talents for a story called, “Dive In Me“, which should be a genuine treat. The full line-up of writers hasn’t been released you, but other names to emerge include Richard Dansky, Fiona Michell and Ed Martin, with a story called, “The Fall of the Old Faith.”
Also in November, I’ll be taking part in Sci-Fi Month, which runs all through the month and is hosted by Rinn Reads. This has grown to be quite a large event, with a whole host of writers and bloggers taking part, and you can find the whole schedule here. While it’s a little bit out of my horror wheelhouse, I’ll be bringing a couple of my darker perspectives to the month, starting on November 4th where I’m guest posting on My Book and My Coffee about a classic of Gothic horror, but also (arguably) the very first science fiction novel, Frankenstein. As part of the guest post, I’ll also be giving away three copies of Season of the Macabre for your preferred ebook reader, courtesy of Clarion Publishing.
Later in the month, on November 13th, I’ll be posting Intervention Paradox here, the story which won the Octocon Short Story competition. A story of quantum hustling, it parodies some of the tropes of sci-fi, but it does so with affection; at least until the blood starts flowing.
If you keep an eye on Twitter, I’ll be giving more timely warning of the posts for Sci-Fi month there; look out for the #RRscifimonth and #scifimonth hashtags. You can also be part of the event by following @SciFiMonth.
And, seeing as it’s Halloween and all, I’ll kick the whole uncharacteristic flurry of activity off on Thursday with a new, rather gory story called “A Creature of Routine“, which will most definitely be NSFW. Those who have previously disapproved of my rather cold-blooded treatment of children in my stories, or who have nearly any kind of trigger, should probably avoid it.
So, the stars must be aligning, as I am definitely on the move at the moment.